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This is a dazzling collection of essays on how the best poems work.
“Poetry,” Jane Hirshfield has said, “is language that foments revolutions of being.” In ten eloquent and highly original explorations, she unfolds some of the ways this is done—by the inclusion of hiddenness, paradox, and surprise; by a perennial awareness of the place of uncertainty in our lives; by language’s own acts of discovery; by the powers of image, statement, music, and feeling to enlarge in every direction.
Basho wanted to renovate human vision by putting what he saw into a bare handful of mostly ordinary words, and he wanted to renovate language by what he asked it to see.
Closely reading poems by Dickinson, Basho, Szymborska, Cavafy, Heaney, Bishop, and Komunyakaa, among many others, Hirshfield reveals how poetry’s world-making takes place: word by charged word. By expanding what is imaginable and sayable, Hirshfield proposes, poems expand what is possible. Ten Windows restores us at every turn to a more precise, sensuous, and deepened experience of our shared humanity and of the seemingly limitless ways that knowledge is both summoned and forged.
On a branch
a cricket singing.
“In 20 or 30 years, this book may be remembered as one of the great common-readers on the pleasures of poetry… This thrilling work of immense value is truly an important book on one of the most important subjects: poetry. However, like a strong drink (or a great poem) it probably isn’t to be taken in a single gulp. It may even seem a little intoxicating, but drink.”—Library Journal
"With precision and passion, Hirshfield elucidates poetry’s “musical shapeliness,” “creative intention,” embrace of uncertainty, and how poetry engenders a profound “unlatching.” She draws stirring examples from Shakespeare, Hopkins, Whitman, Auden, Milosz and others, and illuminates the power of haiku in her affecting in-depth profile of the Japanese poet Basho. Hirshfield writes brilliantly of paradox in poetry, of what poets and stand-up comics have in common, and how poetry “counters isolation and meaninglessness.” The profound pleasure Hirshfield takes in delineating poetry’s efficacy makes for a beautifully enlightening volume. —Booklist